Friday, 10 February 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

From Barnes & Noble
If you've enjoyed the southern charm of Fannie Flagg or The Secret Life of Bees, you'll find The Help a delight. Miss Eugenia Phelan ("Skeeter" to her friends) is a young woman of privilege who enjoys her fellow Junior Leaguers but sometimes finds their ways at odds with her own principles. She plays the part of her station in 1960s Mississippi but can't help feeling dissatisfied with keeping house and acting as recording secretary at league meetings, and yearns for something more.

Minny, Miss Celia, Aibileen, and Yule May are maids employed by Skeeter's friends. Each woman cooks, cleans, and cares for her boss's children, suffering slights and insults silently and sharing household secrets only among themselves. In the wake of the Junior League push to create separate bathrooms for the domestic help within private homes, Skeeter contacts a New York book editor with an idea. Soon she's conducting clandestine meetings with "the help" to capture their stories for publication. It is a daring and foolhardy plan, one certain to endanger not only the positions but the lives of the very women whose stories she transcribes -- as well as her own.

Stockett is a wonderful novelist, and The Help is a charming, thoughtful novel about women finding their voices, and the truths we see when we have the courage to look unflinchingly into the mirror.

Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her family. The Help is her first novel.

The Huffington Post


  1. The Help was liked by all. Even though we felt we knew about the Civil Rights Movement, the book opened our eyes to a much deeper level of the reality of the lives of the maids and their employers. It was deeply horrifying to see that the maids loved and were true parents to the babies who would one day, turn – they knew that they were raising the next generation of bigots. How is the illness transferred? How much is taught as societal values? How much has really changed ? We looked back through our own lives remembering racially negative comments that were widely accepted in our society; how shocking it was when it was rumoured that Dinah Shore had born a “black” baby because she was of mixed blood; how people still react to multiracial adoptions and marriages; how people in Latin American countries treat their servants with distain to this day. One spoke of the invisible indigenous population of Newfoundland – the largest group of native people in North America. Yes, Canadians were and are different than our neighbours to the south but prejudice still exists and thrives in both countries.
    The Help is not without flaws. Skeeter was simply too naive to be believed. That she drove that big ol’ shiny Cadillac convertible into the maids’ neighbourhood and then parked a block away is “pure fantasy”. Compared to The Book of Negroes it appeared highly sanitized – the dangers for the maids and for Skeeter were very real at that time… and deadly. It was the courage of the maids that got the book finished and published – yet they survived by following the rules, by conforming. Minny even began teaching Missy how to conform to white society’s rules. How can we stand in the middle of the road with Aibilene and believe in 'everthin new'.

  2. a Fireside Reader17 February 2012 at 16:34

    I would like to share that I really did enjoy the book and am very glad I read it before I saw the movie. It was a good look at some of the civil rights movements of the time and why they were so important, on such a basic level. The character development was good and the writer's injection of humour throughout the book was appreciated. I have recommended the book to many and all have enjoyed it. By the looks of the Awards the actors are winning from being in the movie I would say it is reaching a wide audience.

  3. Another Fireside Reader19 February 2012 at 10:51

    I found this book a very thought provoking story about a visible, but also invisible, group in a very rigid society that seemed governed by fear; the whites afraid of the blacks, the blacks afraid of the whites. Made me think of the countless movies I have seen with a black maid who has a highly stereotyped role and left me wondering what the story would have been like if it had been written by the black maids themselves. I read one interview where Kathryn Stockett was quoted as saying "I hope no one thinks I presume to know that (what it really felt like)". It also made me think about, not just what it was like then, but also how fear and prejudice influence what we, as a society, do today.